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Follow This

[by Kendra Hovey]

Meditate, laugh, spend time with friends, eat salmon, sit less, and get your Vitamin D. This prescription doesn’t sound so bad; it might even be fun. Yet, many of us struggle to follow even simple health habits. But what if doctor’s orders are not so fun—what if they’re, in fact, a big fat drag? And what if you’re a teenager, your friends aren’t having to do it, and slacking off may not get you into real trouble until the ancient age of 30?

For those who live with it, “#diabetes sucks.” At the very least, the lifelong daily regimen to stay healthy is challenging. Denial is tempting, more so for teenagers. Pediatric endocrinologist Dr. Jen Shine Dyer gets this. She also gets the very real consequences—disability, early death. So to help her patients follow doctor’s orders, she “met them where they’re at”—she texted them. And it worked.

Dyer shared her texting experiment at the 2010 TEDxColumbus, where she also unveiled her prototype EndoGoddess app that would enable other doctors to offer similar automated, yet personal, patient support with presumably similar positive results.

So a year and a half later, is her hypothesis true, “is texting good health?” The answer seems to be yes…and no. Dr. Dyer has learned a lot since then. Her idea has evolved. So has she.

So what has she learned? Small personal bursts of physician support get powerful results, but that power begins to dim after about three months. The text and the personal relationship behind it was a trigger, but for a sustained effect, two more things were needed: motivation and literacy. Her evolved version of the EndoGoddess app has all three. When users check blood sugar levels regularly, they get points (eventually to be used as credit at the iTunes Store). Along with this “gamefication” motivation, the app also includes educational and inspirational information and it connects users to online diabetes communities—an increasingly essential source of social support and “real-time empathy.”

Another change: this app is for the patient, not the doctor. “The patients are already looking,” she says, “they are ready for change.” The switch did come with a compromise. Instead of just being texting-capable, users now need a smartphone, or an iPod Touch—a popular device among teens.

Dyer’s original inspiration is not exactly lost; it just comes through the backdoor. Because it can be used to log every blood sugar check, the app functions as a manifest of the often unseen but difficult day-to-day work diabetes demands. This can be enlightening to family and friends, who then may become more supportive. Also as family and friends contribute to the user’s iTunes account, they can become more invested, connected and educated. Or, as Dyer puts it, “When Grandma puts in $5, she might be more likely to say ‘I’m proud of you.’”

Immediately following TEDxColumbus, Dyer was inundated with offers to develop the app. She ignored every one, but then, after six months, decided to partner with the Columbus start-up Duet Health. “We’re on the same page,” she says. Released last fall, the 99-cent app has been downloaded over 500 times, and has a 4+ rating.

And why, exactly, is it called the EndoGoddess? Patients typically refer to their endocrinologists as “my Endo.” One of Dyer’s, a young girl who approved of her doctor’s fashion sense, took to calling Dyer “my EndoGoddess.” The nickname is also Dyer’s online identity.

Asked if the name might be a barrier for some, Dyer shares that half of all users are male. Though she makes the point that they are, like her, early adopters: “As a group, we’re not the most usual bunch of people.”

The next major evolution for the EndoGoddess app will be the integration of a medical device—the glucometer. Likely, this won’t be available until 2013, as it will need FDA approval. For now, Dyer has a clinical trial to run. “I’m a numbers person,” she says, “the field of mobile health is exciting, but as a doctor what I care about is that it improves health care, and we need to have a measure of that.” The 3-month self-funded trial is set to begin this month. She hopes to also run a longer trial, but has bumped into the problem that perplexes many providers of mobile and online content: funding.

On hiatus from practicing medicine, Dyer’s been doing a lot of travelling and talking. At SXSW in March and a D.C. conference in April, in late May she is off to Paris to present at Doctors 2.0 (over the winter there was even a TV audition). A doctor when she spoke at TEDxColumbus, Dyer is now also a tech entrepreneur and mHealth pioneer. As such, she has a frontline perspective on new mobile health solutions. Follow This will continue to follow her, especially as new policies and patient-centered incentives are due to go into effect. It’s going to get interesting, she predicts, and exciting and, she says, “good for patients.”

Kendra Hovey is editor and head writer at Follow This. On Twitter @KendraHovey, she blogs at


In the last month, we’ve hosted a myriad of TEDx events in Columbus. Here’s a quick re-cap to summarize them – and showing what a vibrant, curious, inspired city we have that is supporting and growing each one.

Our signature event, TEDxColumbus, featured 18 speakers and performers (above: Susan Willeke, Jamie Greene and Rose Smith) on stage at COSI on 11.11.11.  You can watch all of the speaker’s videos here, or get a glimpse of the full day from still images here.  They all celebrated a “Moment in Time,” and did so beautifully.

We had a record turnout of nearly 600 attendees, that’s double where we started two years ago when we hosted the first event at the Wexner center with 300 attendees.  Check out this dynamic gallery at COSI!

We were supported these amazing corporate and community partners: resource interactive, The Columbus Foundation, Barnes and Thornburg, The Limited Brands, Alliance Data, The Ohio State University, and GSW Worldwide. Support from WOSU, COSI and a host of other in-kind donations made the event possible.










We had a unique and very special partnership with LOTH/ STEELCASE / TURNSTONE to outfit the event gallery for our two days of events (see TEDxYouth below). The feedback on our event was so spectacular in part thanks to the great furniture and environment they helped to build for us. We were delighted they could carry through our dream!

The day before TEDxColumbus, we hosted TEDxYouth@Columbus also at COSI, where 18 speakers and performers also took the stage and inspired an audience of nearly 150 high schoolers. Curators Andy Aichele and Christian Long were aided by community volunteers who were also mentors in the afternoon, the day-long event turned out to be a needed and inspired addition to our TEDx line-up. And the kids had a blast, too.


After we cleaned up from TEDxColumbus and TEDxYouth@Columbus, on December 1, for the second year in a row, The Columbus Foundation hosted a livestream of TEDxWomen, a national TEDx event that was broadcast from LA and NY. Over 60 women joined us for the viewing and lots of great conversation between riveting talks. See an additional story here from our live speakers Maryanna Klatt and Theresa Flores who joined us with their TEDxColumbus talks at lunch.

And for us, we closed out the month with a webinar featuring our own InsideOut Project along side TEDx organizers from Aviero, Portgual, Manchester, NH and Athens, Greece. I have been hosting  some of these  webinars for two years now – bringing together knowledge and experience for TEDx organizers around the world. This one was pretty special as we had JR, the artist and recipient of the TED Prize and Amy Novogratz, join us to discuss InsideOut. The webinar will be linked here when it’s live.


All in all, the community has had an exhilarating month – thanks to everyone who’s helped to make these great moments possible!



Why become a speaker or performer at TEDxYouth@Columbus?

YOU have compelling stories.
YOU have amazing energy – and there are topics that give you amazing energy.
YOU are passionate.
YOU have had personal, unique experiences.
YOU are an innovator.
YOU are changing the world.

Why not share these passions, stories, and experiences to inspire other youth? Tell your story through presentations, conversations, or dynamic performances. We’ll provide you all the coaching and training you need.

Change starts with you. But you’ve gotta tell people about it!

And adults out there – we all know youth that are crazy-passionate about something. Why do we know this? Because they are constantly telling us about it. They are making videos about it, posting on and commenting about it and spreading it all like wildfire.

The TEDxYouth@Columbus stage is a great place where this can all come together. This is the very first event of its kind in Columbus. Let’s show the world the passion, innovation, and change that is coming from right here in C-bus.

So apply to be a presenter NOW. Encourage a friend to apply to be a presenter NOW. Take this Moment in Time and make it yours – NOW!

Youth inspiring Youth…and the world.